Starting a business may sound complicated, but if you follow a systematic plan with actionable and practical steps, you can be successful, even as a beginner.
Turning your small business ideas into reality takes time, extensive research, detailed planning, and constant improvement. This article lists a practical 10-step guideline for starting one from scratch.
How To Start A Small Business At Home Or Online
1. Come Up With A Business Idea
First, develop one or several small business ideas you want to pursue. If you haven’t settled on an idea yet, you can research to explore various options or choose one that aligns with your passion or interests.
At this point, don’t focus exclusively on the practicality of your idea, and allow yourself to be creative. The question of whether your idea has the potential to be a successful business will be answered in the next step.
2. Conduct Market Research
There are various methods to conduct market research, including surveys, interviews, and online research. Regardless of your chosen strategy, it’s important to be as thorough as possible.
Know the current trends in your prospect niche, analyze your potential business competitors, and assess whether there’s enough demand for your products or services. Once the data you’ve gathered indicates a market space for your business idea, proceed to the next phase.
3. Write A Business Plan
Whether you want to self-finance or seek potential investors, you must create a comprehensive business plan. This document serves as a detailed guideline for your business, covering aspects such as your products and services, marketing strategies, financial plans, and more.
With a detailed business plan, you’ll be prepared for difficulties or problems you may encounter when starting your project. Moreover, you will have a clearer understanding of the essence and purpose of your business idea.
4. Figure Out Your Finances
Your business plan should have already determined the required financing. That said, it’s time to figure out how you’ll secure the necessary funds for your business.
There are three significant ways to obtain funding for your business: self-funding, seeking investors, or acquiring loans. So, decide which ones are most suitable for your business.
Regardless of how your business is funded, set up a separate bank account to avoid mixing up your personal money with your business capital.
5. Determine Your Business Structure
Your business structure impacts various aspects of your enterprise. These include your day-to-day operations, how much tax you pay, and the risks to your personal assets.
Select the business structure best suited for the type and scale of your enterprise. You can choose from Limited Liability Company (LLC), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), Corporation, and Sole Proprietorship.
6. Register Your Business
The registration process for your business varies depending on which structure you choose and the state in which you want to operate.
If you decide to establish your business as a sole proprietorship, there’s no need to register it formally. Your business profits will be considered as your personal income, so you can start immediately without filing separate paperwork. However, if you wish to operate under a brand name instead of your own, you may need to register a Doing Business As (DBA) name.
Suppose you establish your business as an LLC, LLP, or corporation. In that case, you must register it as a separate legal entity, with taxes and income separate from your own.
To do so, visit your state’s business agency and complete the necessary registration steps. These typically involve paying a filing fee, choosing a registered agent to manage your business’ legal documents, and obtaining your business’s tax identification number and bank accounts.
7. Select Your Vendors
Decide whether your business requires products and services from vendors that will help you streamline your operations. Some common business functions you may want to outsource to service-providing vendors are finance management, customer service support, and shipping and logistics.
Given that the data you’ll share with vendors may be sensitive, it’s important to engage exclusively with trusted entities in your industry.
8. Set Up An Online Presence
In this tech-centered era, establishing an online presence for your business is non-negotiable. This is one of the easiest ways to promote your business to customers and showcase your brand to potential future investors.
The most common methods to establish an online presence for your business are creating a social media page and developing a customized website. As mentioned before, you can outsource this process to vendors if you’re not too experienced in this field.
9. Market And Advertise Your Business
It’s time to be proactive about showing your products and services to your target audience. You can do this through various offline and online marketing and advertising strategies.
To promote your brand offline, you can sponsor local events, hand out banners and posters, or offer free branded merchandise to the public. Online marketing also offers various options, including paid advertisements, establishing affiliate programs, and engaging in organic social media marketing, where you post regular content and build a community around your brand.
10. Grow Your Business
Launching a business marks the initial phase of your entrepreneurial journey. Be prepared to improve and change how your business operates over time, as this is almost always inevitable.
Join communities, collaborate with other brands in your niche or industry, and accept constructive criticisms from customers and experienced entrepreneurs. Your business doesn’t have to be perfect to succeed, but it should always be adapting and improving.
Other Key Tips For Starting A Small Business
Know When To Ask For Help
Even if you plan to establish a sole-proprietorship business, don’t pressure yourself to do everything independently. Know your strengths and weaknesses in starting a business and ask for help when needed on aspects you’re unsure of or inexperienced in doing.
You can ask family, friends, and colleagues for general advice and seek out professionals who can help propel your business to the next level.
Embrace Not Knowing Everything From The Get-Go
While I previously mentioned the importance of crafting a detailed business plan, it may not always be necessary, particularly for small-scale businesses in their initial stages.
Sometimes, an informal plan consisting of just a page or two will be more than enough to provide insight into the profitability of your business idea. From here, you can always expand the business plan as you start operating your company and get more accurate, real-time data.
I initially published this article on Forbes.
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